Play Room. June-July 2016

Best balance bikes, the lowdown on Lopez Island and 5 questions for the podcaster behind Roam Schooled.

Take Five: Jim Brunberg

North Portland dad Jim Brunberg, a musician, sound engineer and founder of Mississippi Studios and Revolution Hall, has signed up to do something many parents try to avoid at all costs — take road trips with his kids. Long road trips. Instead of Googling answers to questions posed by his 7-year-old twin daughters, Vern and Dana, he bought a used RV and said, “Let’s go find out.” He’s turned their quest for answers into the very cool podcast Roam Schooled. Check it out at

PlayRoom-Jun16-_Take_5Q: What’s the farthest you’ve traveled for an answer?

A: The farthest we’ve driven is Petoskey, Mich., via the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula. But we don’t always take the road. We flew to New York in November to find out, “Why is the Statue of Liberty there?” And this ended up giving us episodes 5 and 6, and now we’re planning a trip to Vietnam so we can travel along with (and tell the story of) a few people searching for long-lost family members.

Q: How do you combat the dreaded question, “Are we there yet?”

A: The first time I hear it, I turn it into a philosophical question: “By there, do you mean here?” And then they get annoyed, so I make them write it as a song, or sing it to me, which always distracts them into doing something ridiculous and they forget. But by now they know the question is verboten. If they ask again and I run out of ideas, then I completely ignore it.

Q: What’s the weirdest situation you’ve been in while “roam schooling?”

A: It’s always weird. People don’t know what to make of us — I love this. I don’t come from an investigative journalism background, so it always feels weird for me to be asking people deeply personal questions, especially when they answer in front of the girls. Often our subjects have an agenda, and we let them go with it for an hour, knowing we’ll probably use just a few minutes of the tape.

Q: You co-parent with the girls’ mother. Does working on the podcast help you feel connected when the girls are with her?

A: Absolutely. And their mom has been a tremendous help and has been very flexible about letting us roam. As the girls get older, it will be necessary to do more planning for them to miss a few weeks of school; so far this has been pretty easy. When I don’t have the girls, I’m editing and making music and getting the word out about the show as best as I can.

Q: Do your daughters have any inkling of how cool you are for doing this?

A: I’m pretty sure they think I’m the biggest dork in the universe, and to them, that’s awesome.

— Denise Castanon

Getaway: Lopez Island, Wash.


Okay, this isn’t exactly an overnight trip from PDX. To fully appreciate the glories that are the San Juan Islands, you’ll need at least three or four days, plus a ferry reservation from Anacortes, Wash. (via But it’s worth the trip — there’s nowhere in Oregon that looks quite like this lushly forested, rocky beached collection of islands that dots Puget Sound and overlooks the Olympic mountains to the south and the Cascade range to the east. Our favorite is laid-back Lopez Island, known as the flattest and most bicycle-friendly of the San Juans (though kids on bikes will still be daunted by some of the hills.) Explore Spencer Spit State Park, where kids can build the driftwood fort of their dreams, and try a family kayak trip on the island’s even drowsier south end at the spectacular Watmough Bay Preserve. Don’t miss the sweet, plump u-pick raspberries at Crowfoot Farms if you’re there in season, and wait your turn in line with everyone else for fresh morning pastries at Holly B’s Bakery in Lopez Village. For dinner, try the unfussy Haven Kitchen and Bar, where kids will like the chicken satay and housemade guac. Pitch a tent at Odlin County Park, or find a snug rental house via

— Julia Silverman

TOP 5… Saturday Farmers’ Markets

  1. Vendors at the Portland Farmers’ Market at Portland State University offer a bounty of samples to keep the smallest shoppers happy; junior chefs can sign up in advance for cooking classes, too.
  2. Fun kiddo activities at the Beaverton Farmers Market this year include creating seed bombs and making bread.
  3. The market in St. Johns offers a shady “sprout corner” with kid-friendly activities, hosted by local businesses and community groups.
  4. At the Lake Oswego Farmers’ Market at Millenium Plaza Park, kids can answer a “farm fresh” question of the week and win $2 in tokens to spend on fruits and veggies.
  5. New this year to the downtown Tigard Farmers’ Market is a community garden where kids can plant a veggie and care for it all summer long.

— J.S.

PlayRoom-Jun16-_Bookmark_ThisBookmark This: Welcome to Munchkintime

This summer keep the phrase “Mom, I’m bored” at bay with fun, creative projects from Love Keil’s blog, From homemade foamy bath paint to Father’s Day gift ideas to adorable heart decorations made from crayon shavings, Keil, who’s from Beaverton, provides step-by-step directions with photos to guide you through the activities. You’ll also find plenty of yummy dinner inspiration if you’re stuck in a mealtime rut. (Her gorgeous food photography had us drooling just a little.) Keil, who started her blog in 2014, is the mother of two girls, ages 5 and 2. “I love to cook and craft with my girls,” says Keil. “And I wanted to capture on camera our recipes and crafts, so when my girls get older they can visit Munchkin Time and make food we used to make with step-by step pictures.”

— D.C.

Gear Guide: bikes for tykes

In Portland, cycling is its own sub-culture. And we start ’em young here. So now that summer’s officially on and Sunday Parkways is back, it’s the perfect time to introduce your toddler to the joys of bike riding with a new balance bike.

— D.C.

PlayRoom-Jun16-_Gear_-_Radio_FlyerGlide ‘n Go — Radio Flyer

This solidly built bikes is best for 3- to 4-year-olds. Air tires help with traction on pebbly ground and a quick-release clamp makes the seat easy to adjust. An excellent budget choice. $49.99.

PlayRoom-Jun16--_Gear_Burley_-_MyKick_(Green)MyKick — Burley

Burley is known for its kid-toting bike trailers and its balance bike upholds the brand’s high standards. One of the most highly rated features on the MyKick is its flat-proof, honeycomb tires. Other first-class touches include rip-proof rubber handle grips and a quick release seat adjuster. Great for kids ages 2 to 3. $119.99. Bike Gallery, 5329 NE Sandy Blvd.

PlayRoom-Jun16-_Islabikes_RothanRothan — Islabikes

This is the Bentley of balance bikes. An ultra-lightweight frame makes the Rothan suitable for kids as young as 18 months. Care for kiddos is evident in all parts of this bike’s craftsmanship — from rounded bolts that won’t scratch tender skin to a curved padded seat that keeps tots from sliding off the back. Best of all, an extended seat post ensures this bike will last until your tyke is ready for a pedal bike. The icing on the cake: The Islabikes Portland showroom will customize the bike for your child. $199.99. Call 503-954-2410 to book an appointment at their location in Southeast.

Playlist: Summer Listening

Whether you’re playing some tunes while your littles run through the sprinklers or trying to keep everyone happy on a summer road trip, these albums from kids’ artists are sure to please.

Wake Up & Sing — Red Yarn

PlayRoom-Jun16-_Red_Yarn_-_Wake_Up_&_SingLocal kindie superstar Red Yarn, aka Andy Furgeson, has a devoted following in my house. After I played his latest release, Wake Up & Sing, for my 3-year-old, she requested his album four more times in the next two days. And by requested, I mean demanded, “No, play Red Yarn!” She especially loved acting out all the moves to Hop Little Squirrel. Luckily, parents will enjoy Red Yarn’s infectiously happy title track and the rest of this fun album just as much as their kids.

PlayRoom-Jun16-_Playlist_-_Saddle_up_-_Okee_Dokee_BrothersSaddle Up: A Western Adventure Album — The Okee Dokee Brothers

This new album from the Grammy-winning duo of Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing calls all cowpokes to roam with them on the range. Covering the American cowboy standard Don’t Fence Me In, The Okee Dokee Brothers also offer up some original works full of adventure and humor written during their month-long, horseback gallivant along the Continental Divide. Smooth, lulling vocals, plucky banjos and twangy guitars ride through the songs. Some standouts tracks include Cow Cow Yippee, The Great Divide and Somos Amigos, a wonderfully amicable bilingual tune in the style of an accordion-heavy Mexican norteo. My only complaint is having to explain the concept of a Jackalope to a 3-year-old.

PlayRoom-Jun16-_Aaron_Nigel_SmithOne — Aaron Nigel Smith

Local artist Aaron Nigel Smith delivers a lively reggae album with a message of love and unity for kids. The record features guest vocals from reggae icon Ernie Smith and kindie performers Father Goose and Tommy Shepherd of the Alphabet Rockers. Warm summer days are the perfect backdrop for jamming to the tunes Take Time in Life, Loving & Kind and Oh, Island in the Sun.

— D.C.

Good Deeds: Making Feline Friends

PlayRoom-Jun16--_Good_DeedsCat memes rule the Internet, but many real-life cats need help finding safe, loving homes. Enter the Cat Adoption Team (CAT). CAT has been providing a safe place for unwanted or abandoned cats and kittens since 1998. They’re a nonprofit and rely on donations and adoption processing fees — and, of course, caring volunteers. Through Hands On Portland, CAT is offering a one-day volunteer session at their Sherwood location on June 4 from 10 am 1 pm for those 12 and older (those younger than 16 must volunteer with an adult). At this volunteer session where no previous training is necessary, your cat-loving tween or teen will help clean cages, work with the animals and get cats ready for adoption. Sign up at Your kid may be inspired enough to make a monthly volunteering commitment to CAT. And families with younger children have found other ways to help the cats, says volunteer manager Nancy Puro. “Many kids are now asking that instead of gifts for themselves, they would like their guests to bring gifts for the cats to their birthday parties. Kids are also holding bake sales, car washes and garage sales and donating the proceeds to the cats. And some families are making tie blankets that fit in our take-home boxes so that each cat can go home on a nice comfy bed.” Find more information at

— D.C.

Chalkboard: State of the Unions


The latest Hollywood divorces may sell grocery-store tabloids, but divorce rates across Oregon have been falling for the past five years, according to data collected by the state’s Public Health Division. Marriage dissolutions hit a modern-day record low in 2015, down by almost 1,500 from 2010. Social scientists have pegged several reasons for the trend: People are waiting until later to get married, as both partners try to establish themselves in the workforce. Society also broadly accepts that two people often live together before getting hitched these days, which was once taboo. And the widespread availability of birth control helps prevent some so-called shotgun weddings. In Oregon, there may be some other factors at play. Since digging itself out of recession a few years ago, the state’s economy has been growing slowly but steadily, attracting more college-educated people to the region. And data shows that those with a college degree tend to wait longer to get married, but are more likely to stay married once they’ve made that choice. Still, the percentage of children affected by their parents’ divorce has remained relatively constant — about half of those divorcing have at least one kid.

— J.S.

PlayRoom-Jun16-_We_Recommend-2We Recommend:

Princess Awesome’s line of twirly dresses that feature planes, trains and mathematical symbols. Because girls can love purple and pirates. Check them out at

Ask Dr. Corey

Q: My 2-year-old daughter still likes to sleep in our bed, but we are ready to have it back to ourselves. Any tips on getting her to transition to her own room and sleep through the night?

A: Next to discussions about behavior and food, I field more questions about sleep during well child visits than any other topic.

And why not? Sleep is the way our body and mind recharge after our days filled with work, school and play. Elizabethan-era British writer Thomas Dekker said it perfectly when he wrote, “Sleep is the golden chain that binds our health and our bodies together.”

With the importance of good sleep so well established, I am always surprised by how much poor sleep parents are willing to put up with to accommodate the comforts of the child.

After the newborn and early infancy months, there are reliable and time-tested ways to help transition your kiddos back to the comforts of their own bed.

The first step is to accept the fact that psychologically, kids are absolutely capable of sleeping in their own bed all night long. Sometimes they just need to be given the chance to do so.

The second step is to know that for most kids, the transition from one pattern of behavior to another, different pattern of behavior is usually accompanied by some amount of difficulty. Kids have a hard time knowing what is ultimately in their best interest, which is why parents need to help define that for them. Put another way, some amount of fussing over this change is normal and expected and will not cause a problem for your child.

Once past these two hurdles, the last step is to decide on an approach to transition your child into their own bed.

Typically, I recommend a consistent bedtime routine that results in your child falling asleep on their own rather than being put to sleep.

When and if they wake up, there are two commonly accepted ways to deal with it. The first is to use what is called the “graduated extinction” method whereby the time it takes to respond to your child is gradually lengthened with each night awakening.

The other approach, often referred to as “cry it out,” or what I like to call the “direct approach” involves putting them down for the night and then not going in their room until the next morning. This can be a very difficult and harrowing experience as a parent, but the advantage is that it takes much less time than the graduated extinction method (usually around a week or so).

PlayRoom-Jun16-DrFishFor the escape-artist child who finds a way out of their room and back into their parents’ bed, calmly and patiently returning them to their own bed seems to work well. However, I acknowledge that can be a difficult task at 3 am.

I also caution parents to avoid classic traps like giving your child a snack at night. Trust me, they aren’t hungry!

As usual, your child’s healthcare provider may have other tips or tricks that will work well, so I would encourage you to discuss this further at an upcoming appointment. Happy sleep!

Dr. Corey Fish, a Pacific Northwest native and graduate of the University of Washington School of Medicine, is a pediatrician at Sellwood Medical Clinic. When he is not a work, he likes backcountry skiing with this wife and their border collie/Australian shepherd mis, and playing his guitar. For more info: Got a question for Dr. Corey? Get in touch at and we’ll pass it along.

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